Press release from Kangaroo Hoppet:
Valerio Leccardi from Switzerland and Iris Pessey from France took top honours in the 2019 Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek on Saturday 24 August. This was a record 5th Hoppet victory for Leccardi, and Pessey’s first after claiming third in 2017 and second in 2018. Over 1,100 competitors from 24 countries took part in the 29th edition of the Hoppet that was staged in clear but windy conditions on fast and firm snow.
Perfect track preparation from the course groomers greeted the field in sunshine at Falls Creek. The men’s elite field was a pack-race that steadily dropped skiers as the kilometres passed by. A group of six skiers including Leccardi, Swiss compatriot Fabian Schaad, a triple Italian contingent of Giacomo Gabrielli, Enrico Nizzi and Mattia Armellini, and 4-time runner up and Mt Beauty local Phil Bellingham broke away from a strong international field as the skiers left Sun Valley after 6km. A series of attacks from the Swiss skiers reduced the leaders to just 3 with the big Italian Gabrielli the only other athlete to hang on.
Leccardi increased the pressure over the final 10km finally breaking Gabrielli and making a small gap over Schaad, going on to win from his Swiss companion by only 5 sec with Gabrielli rounding out an international podium a further 1 min 34 sec back. Bellingham finished strong in fourth place ahead of Nizzi and Armellini.
A Winter Olympian from 2010, Leccardi has lived in Mt Beauty since 2017 and coaches the Australian Team during at the winter at the Falls Creek National Training Centre. “I am very happy to win my 5th Hoppet in such good conditions at Falls Creek” Leccardi said after the event. “it was tough to get away in the fast snow, so I had to use my experience to manage my moves on the course.” Asked if he has a 6th title in his sight Leccardi said that he will let this one soak in before making any commitments.
The women’s field was also a strong pack race before Pessey was able to utilise her marathon experience over the top of the course into the windy sections. Pessey was able to break the chase pack of local skiers Casey Wright and Aimee Watson and create a comfortable gap as the skiers started the final 16km loop. With Wright and Watson sharing the load into the wind, Pessey did well to maintain her lead through the middle of the race. It was Pessey’s first win in the event and the first French skier to claim the title in the 29-year history of the event. Watson was able to slowly create a gap from Wright towards the end of the event. Kat Paul skied well into fourth, with Sarah Slattery claiming 5th.
Pessey said after the event that she had been chasing the title for 3 years: “I have been training at Falls during the Australian winter for 3 years and it was a strong goal of mine to win this event in 2019. It has been great training on the trails at Falls Creek in the lead up to the event and we are looking forward to great snow and trails continuing for the remainder of the winter”.
Race Director Ben Derrick praised the efforts of all volunteers to put on a great event again in 2019. “we have over 150 volunteers involved in the event which is the showcase international snowsports event in the southern hemisphere. It is very inspiring to see so many enthusiastic skiers and so many people committed to producing a world class event”
The Kangaroo Hoppet greatly appreciates the support of AGL and Falls Creek Alpine Resort for their ongoing commitment to developing and promoting Australian skiing.
The Worldloppet moves on to New Zealand next week for the Merino Muster.